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Economic Inclusion: Southern Cities Enacting Change

By Corporate Communications and Community Development

  • Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Community Development Senior Manager Jeanne Milliken Bonds

    1 of 4 Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Community Development Senior Manager Jeanne Milliken Bonds exchange perspectives on economic inclusion efforts at work in the Queen City.

  • Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Scot Spencer (left) with Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles (middle) and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland (right)

    2 of 4 Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Scot Spencer (left) with Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles (middle) and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland (right) who shared their experiences in leading change and how they are building small business capacity across their cities.

  • Cohort members from Atlanta, Asheville, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans and Richmond led discussions

    3 of 4 Cohort members from Atlanta, Asheville, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans and Richmond led discussions and engaged in “peer learning sessions” during the April meeting.

  • Community Development Senior Manager Jeanne Milliken Bonds at the Richmond Fed’s Conference Center in Charlotte, North Carolina

    4 of 4 Community Development Senior Manager Jeanne Milliken Bonds welcomes the cohort to the Richmond Fed’s Conference Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The day’s opening session began with the playing of a provocative video by a seemingly radical poet. The initial responses were emotional and followed by quiet reflection. The room then came to life as the storytellers shared experiences and concerns for the economic inequalities they still see in Southern communities.

“In the South, many people of color have been left behind resulting in lack of economic mobility,” said Scot Spencer of The Annie E. Casey Foundation, who opened the three-day convening of the Southern Cities for Economic Inclusion cohort at the Richmond Fed’s Conference Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The cohort’s mission is to advance economic inclusion through peer-learning sessions to help participant cities develop inclusive policies such as prioritizing local hiring and contracting.” 

Economic inclusion is a people-focused and place-based area of community development work that advances policies and practices that enable disinvested and underserved communities to more fully contribute to the nation’s economy to ensure our country’s future prosperity. To achieve economic inclusion, efforts to effect community change confront systemic and intractable issues such as the complexities of concentrated policy and the effects of historical, political and legal obstacles such as the legacy of segregation and the structural limitations of state law that limits city authority to adopt inclusive policies.

Launched by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2015, the cohort consists of city officials and staff, as well as local philanthropists, and business and community partners from Atlanta, Asheville, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans and Richmond. In partnership with the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, St. Louis and Richmond, the cohort has held its meetings, when possible, at the Federal Reserve. In October 2017, the City of Richmond served as the host city for the three-day program, sharing challenges and innovations locally, such as the city’s Office of Community Wealth Building — a first of its kind in the nation. The Richmond Fed hosted discussions and strategy sessions at its headquarters office.

Our organization has long partnered with stakeholders around the District on economic inclusion initiatives and in holding related programs in Maryland, the District of Columbia, North Carolina and South Carolina, said Community Development Senior Manager, Jeanne Milliken Bonds.

“The delivery of tailored workforce training in partnership with the private sector and the creation and support of local hiring strategies can result in local employment for residents who might not otherwise have the opportunity to access those jobs,” Bonds explained. “The Cohort focuses on a host of strategies aimed at improving local economic outcomes like building a pipeline of workers and creating generational wealth building for family businesses.”

The Southern Cities strategy focuses on policies that encourage local hiring and local procurement among public and private entities, both of which are part of the local economic engine supporting the health of cities. Efforts to build local capacity results in wealth-building in the neighborhoods which are often communities that have experienced disinvestment and now have high levels of poverty. Research has shown that low - and moderate-income and underserved neighborhoods benefit from economic inclusion strategies that include commitments to hire local residents and support women- and minority-owned businesses.

The Cohort’s strategies include local hiring agreements, Anchor Institution procurement practices, Anchor Institution focus on career pathways strategies to support quality employment for residents, preemption legislation that restricts cities, procurement strategies, and application of racial equity strategies. The most commonly used definition for “Anchor Institutions” is an enterprise that is deeply rooted in a local community because of its mission, invested capital, or relationships to customers, employees, and vendors, and because the “anchor” controls economic, human, intellectual, and institutional resources, it has the potential to bring beneficial impact to the community at large.

Day two concluded with Mayors Jim Strickland of Memphis and Vi Lyles of Charlotte engaging in a robust discussion of how their cities are changing procurement processes. “We are using the city’s purchasing power to help grow and support small businesses, minority- and women-owned firms,” explained Strickland. “And that’s building small business capacity across our city.”

“All businesses should have a chance to share in the benefits,” said Lyles. “Charlotte’s disparity study showed us where we can turn to minority business enterprises to fill gaps.”

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